Baseball: an American institution, an escape, an addiction. As the grand game “progressed” to feature interleague play and escalating home run totals posted by laboratory experiments whose collective integrity mirrored that of a tainted league, a local hero continued to ply his craft in the only manner he knew. In the 1999 campaign, his 19th with the Baltimore Orioles, Cal Ripken, Jr. remained an Oriole fixture and Maryland’s favorite son. Steadfast in embodying “The Oriole Way” as the very climate of the game and the winning tradition in Baltimore underwent dramatic changes, Ripken was perhaps the only refreshing element remaining as the aforementioned events took shape. And on an oppressively hot Sunday afternoon at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Ripken reminded us, all of us, that there are no substitutes for hard work, perseverance and most of all, the game of baseball.
On July 25, 1999, Cal Ripken, Jr. wore and autographed this Baltimore Orioles “Turn Ahead the Clock” ensemble. A deviation from traditional “throwback” uniforms, the futuristic apparel was the brainchild of Seattle Mariners marketing coordinator Kevin Martinez, who designed and unveiled his rendition of uniforms for the 2027 Mariners (in celebration of what will be the club’s 50th anniversary). Worn during a 1998 game between the Mariners and Royals, the uniforms somehow garnered the attention and approval of Major League Baseball despite a consensus “thumbs down” from the thousands of fans exposed to what they generally panned as “unsightly.” So in 1999, as Bud Selig’s regime was in full swing, another brilliant idea “caught on” as 22 big league teams donned futuristic apparel previewing what they’ll be wearing in 2021 (so said corporate sponsor Century 21).
Cosmetic appeal, meanwhile, meant nothing to Cal Ripken, Jr. Of his Oriole teammates that day, none were on the club when Ripken debuted in 1981 and only one (Brady Anderson) had been a teammate at the since-razed Memorial Stadium. As for his club’s status, the Birds entered that afternoon’s contest at 44-53 and in fourth place, 15-1/2 games behind the front-running Yankees. While the O’s had just won five straight, they gained zero ground on the Yanks during that streak. Nevertheless, 44,724 flocked to Camden Yards that day to endure 96 degree heat and watch their Orioles do battle with the last-place Anaheim Angels. His competitive fire unwavering, Ripken paid no mind to standings that day, nor to milestones that were within grasp. Specifically, he entered the contest with 398 career home runs and 2,957 hits. With his team trailing, 3-2, Ripken led off the bottom of the second with his 399th career home run to tie the score. He doubled with one out in the sixth. By that time, however, Orioles starter Sidney Ponson had been reached for seven runs and, as fate would have it, Ripken would be stranded at second with his club trailing, 7-3. Teammate Albert Belle, meanwhile, was putting on a fireworks display of his own. Belle homered in the first inning to bring the Birds to within 3-2. He launched a 3-run bomb in the seventh to close the gap to 7-6. For an encore, he connected off of Angles closer Troy Percival with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to send the game into extra innings. In perhaps the most frightening moment in Ripken’s career, he took a Percival fastball off the left ear flap of his batting helmet in the 10th inning. In typical Ripken style, however, he remained in the game and delivered a bases-loaded, two-out, walk-off base hit in the bottom of the 11th. Photos published in the next day’s Baltimore Sun are framed to 17-1/8 x 14-1/8” and accompany this Hall of Fame uniform. The handsome black frames showcase images of Ripken in this uniform. Readily visible in the photo, the left front of Ripken’s jersey is covered with infield dirt. That dirt remains on this jersey as a telltale reminder of its wearer and his gritty performance, not just that afternoon but in every single game he played. Still a “little boy” as his 39th birthday fast approached, Ripken was quick to make us forget about labor disputes, resultant play stoppages, performance-enhancing substances and anything else that may have been wrong with baseball. Three ticket stubs and three LOAs from the Baltimore Orioles accompany this ensemble, which was won in a silent auction.
Ripken’s ensemble includes: Jersey a black knit pullover garment with “Orioles” angled across the chest in glittering silver-on-black-on-white twill, his since-retired number “8” sewn to the back in like fashion and “RIPKEN” sewn vertically in sideways characters. Just below the “8,” Ripken’s silver marker autograph projects (“8”) strength and clarity and is accompanied by his inscription of “7/25/99 - #399.” Glittering silver piping lines the collar and sleeve openings, while both the collar and left front tail are home to “Russell Athletic” size “48” tags. As noted above, the dirt from that days efforts remains as it appeared when it was caked on 14 years ago; Pants white knit leg wear with a two-button zippered fly, two back pockets, seven belt loops and black piping lining the outer legs. Within the elasticized waistband, a “Russell Athletic” size “38” label is accompanied by a strip tag denoting “8-RIPKEN-37/40-34-99”; Shoes a pair of black leather “Nike” size “12” accessories with five metal cleats affixed to the bottom of each. On the heel portion of the left shoe, Ripken’s silver marker autograph shows (“10”) strength.
As he donned these items and took the field for the 2,768th time in his remarkable career, Ripken displayed the poise, class and burning desire that, from Memorial Stadium to the hallowed halls of Cooperstown, never waned in the least. This item has a reserve (estimated value $10,000-$15,000).
For a video of the highlights of this game, please see the below video. If you go to the 1:13 mark of the video, you will see Ripken in the final at bat of the game, in the offered uniform.
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